Erikka Askeland: Today’s fashion has all gone to the dogs
HOLIDAYS are good times for revelations. So, it was on a patio terrace overlooking a Portuguese port this week that it became clear people are increasingly treating their pets like they are their children.
One holiday companion reported that 4 per cent of UK dog owners dress their little critters in doggie pyjamas. Now, clearly, most dogs tend to have an in-built outfit suitable for both day and evening attire – fur.
But as we whiled away the evening mocking the pretensions of those who play dress up with their animals, I suspect my friend was already wavering. Having just got a sweet little spaniel seven months ago, she and her partner are smitten. And while they are not the types to use their puppy as a handbag accessory, I wouldn’t put it past them to succumb to the cuteness and buy the poor little dog some night clothes to wear.
You can see the appeal of pets, particularly for those who don’t, for whatever reason, have children. You get a little creature that you can indulge and who provides you with amusement and makes you get off your backside to go for walkies. That and you don’t have to fork out for school fees, expensive wedding celebrations or have to pick up the cost of teenage car damage.
But we were joined by another couple also in the throes of puppy love, and the ensuing discussion over dinner was an eye-opener.
Today’s busy lives mean that couples or singletons in need of a little animal cuddling when they get home are working long hours. So, in order to prevent Fido or Snoopy from being too lonely, there is doggy daycare. This makes sense, particularly when you could spend most of your day in the office worrying that the beast has opted to chew the heels off all your dressy shoes in your absence.
But as our dinner conversation increasingly went to the dogs, as it seems inevitably to do at a table full of puppy-lovers, there emerged that there is a vast array of services available for these chumps – or, rather, these humans with a capacity to love animals – with strong competition driving their quality and price. For example, does your little furry companion still struggle with toilet training? Why not send them away for a two-week intensive with a professional dog trainer – yours for a snip at £900.
One of the doggie lovers had just been to visit a new daycare service they were considering – it is important, too, to ensure the dog likes the place before you commit. But rather than your standard sort where guests are promised a stroll around the park twice a day, the pooches were picked up and whizzed off to a farm on the outskirts of town, where they could live the carefree dream country lifestyle of a hound dog, but maintain a residence in the city. The pet owners considering leaving their little bundle of furry joy there were even quizzed about their dear creature’s dietary requirements.
Even to our dog-lovers, however, this seemed a step too far. When your new puppy excitedly leaps to the level of your shoulder when a tin of Chum is being opened, dietary requirements are not so much an issue. However, the manager of the country lifestyle daycare service said he had met people who fed their dog eggs Benedict of a morning.
It all seemed simpler when I was younger, when my dad’s dogs were clearly pets that didn’t seem to require too much effort to be absolutely delighted with a bit of attention. As long as pack dynamics were observed, with the human as the leader, the animals seemed quite happy to be sent off to the doghouse in the back garden. For them it wasn’t a punishment, just a good place to shelter from sun and rain.
Seems to me there was a similar approach to child-rearing, whereby if they came back at the end of the day for supper and were largely unscathed, you were doing a pretty good parenting job.
But if people feel the need to infantilise their pets, dress them up and invest thousands of pounds into them, so be it. Having researched doggie pyjamas on the web for the sake of this article (see, dear reader, what I do for you), they are quite adorable. I might even get a pair for my friend’s puppy for Christmas. Unless she has already got some.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west